Today a friend and I went to the beach. He is moving to Seattle tomorrow.
We went to Jughandle.
When I first moved away from California, I moved to Vermont. That was an interesting experience and a tale for another day, but I still vividly remember the last place I went. We were living in the old house in Caspar then, and all my things were packed up, ready to go. We weren’t leaving for several hours because my flight was departing San Francisco very late at night.
It was almost the end of summer, and I slipped my feet into a pair of worn sandals by the door and walked down Caspar Road to the north, feeling like the world was slipping away behind me. Every foot away from the door of home felt like a mile. I ambled out across the headlands, dodging gorse bushes, and then went down the path to the secret beach.
I can’t really remember what I did there, but I recall taking off my shoes, rooting my feet deep into the sand, and sitting on a rock, staring out to sea. I remember leaving my clothing in a pile on a sea stack and swimming out into the bay, feeling the ocean writhing underneath me, gasping for air and sputtering out salt water. I remember running pell-mell down the beach, trying to take it all in and fix it in my mind.
Later, in the airport, my father left me at the security checkpoint and I thought I might actually die, the pain in my chest was so great. I remember foolishly looking back to see if he was still there as my luggage went through the x-ray, but he was nowhere to be seen.
I was wearing heavy boots then, and though this was in the days before heavy airport security, the screener must not have liked the look of me because he asked me to take them off, and I did, feeling isolated and desperate in the middle of the TWA terminal, and I took off my socks too and grains of sand fell out onto the carpeting and I thought well, that’s it, then. That’s the last piece of home I had left.
Somehow I muddled through my time away, as we all do. And I remember the first thing I did when I got back home, too. It was five in the morning, and I slipped my feet into a pair of worn sandals by the door and strolled down Caspar Road, each step feeling more and more grounded and right to me. I was tired from the long traveling, and I don’t really recall everything I did there, but I do remember walking out onto the headlands in the half dark, slipping down the path to the secret beach, and swimming out into the bay, the sun rising over me and filling the world suddenly with a gush of light. I remember floating motionless in the middle of the bay for some time, thinking at last I am at home, and perhaps I will never leave again.
I wish him good fortune in his new adventures, and I think he will enjoy himself immensely. Learning and experiencing a new place can be a most excellent and magical thing, especially when you know that some day, you can come home and find the pathway to the secret beach waiting there for you.